NEW YORK -- Beneath gigantic tents created from the skirts of lavish women's dresses, erotic mischief is afoot at City Center.
John Malkovich frolics to the music of Mozart in "The Giacomo Variations," a playful, frothy production which was envisioned as "a chamber opera play" by its creators. Written and directed by Michael Sturminger, the lighthearted work is being briefly presented by the Cherry Orchard Festival at New York City Center.
Reading aloud from his memoirs, legendary Venetian seducer Giacomo Casanova (Malkovich, languid and sardonic) looks back at some of his most memorable 18th-century liasons. Now elderly and pondering the meaning of his existence, he supervises the enactment of his memories through a series of lively vignettes based on well-known duets and arias by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.
Madcap liasons and mischievous flirtations are based on opera scenes first created by Mozart and one of his librettists, Lorenzo Da Ponte, primarily from "Cosi Fan Tutte," "Le Nozze di Figaro" and "Don Giovanni." The musical concept is by Martin Haselbock, who conducts the Orchester Wiener Akademie with distinction.
As the famously roguish Casanova, Malkovich bears an imperious and occasionally self-mocking air, whether eloquently philosophizing, wading into the action himself, or merely watching his younger self carouse.
Youthful opera singers Sophie Klussmann and Daniel Schmutzhard perform multiple roles, although Kirsten Blaise substituted for Klussman with great comedic flair and lovely singing in a recent performance. Baritone Schmutzhard brings robust vigor to the youthful Casanova. Ingeborga Dapkunaite brings a delicate maturity and sense of mystery to her primary role as a former acquaintance of Casanova who chides him for past misdeeds.
Or maybe that's not what she's doing. But the plot doesn't really matter; it's enough that the atmosphere is suffused with sensuality and amusement.
Sumptuous costumes and set design by Renate Martin and Andreas Donhauser give a rich look to the production. Beautiful dresses and billowy layers of underclothing often litter the stage, casually discarded in the same way that the fickle Casanova left behind so many women after his conquests.
The revival of Annie is currently in its first year on Broadway, directed by James Lapine at the Palace Theater. (Photo by Andrew H. Walker/Getty Images). <em><strong>Correction: </strong>An earlier version of this slideshow listed the Palace Theater as the first revival of 'Annie.' We regret the error.</em>
The Book Of Mormon
The Book of Mormon, by South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone, is currently in its third year on Broadway at the Eugene O'Neill Theater. The show opened in London and is currently on its first national tour. Its ticket sales have broken records on Broadway, London, and across the nation. (Photo by Stephen Lovekin/Getty Images)
Hands On A Hard Body
This theater image released by The Hartman Group shows the cast during a performance of "Hands on a Hard Body," at the Brooks Atkinson Theater in New York and featuring songs co-written by Phish frontman Trey Anastasio. (AP Photo/The Hartman Group, Chad Batka)
This undated theater image released by National Theatre of Scotland shows Alan Cumming in "Macbeth." In the play, Cumming appears as a patient in a white-tiled mental hospital for whom the plot of "Macbeth is sort of a schizophrenic nightmare. Producers said Friday that the Tony Award winning Scottish actor will bring his one-man Macbeth to Broadway's Ethel Barrymore Theatre beginning April 7. It will run through June 30. (AP Photo/National Theatre of Scotland, Manuel Harlan)
Cat On A Hot Tin Roof
Scarlett Johansson is starring in a revival of Tennessee Williams' Cat on a Hot Tin Roof at the Richard Rogers Theater on Broadway. It opens on January 17, 2013 and closes on March 30th. (Photo by Victoria Will/Invision/AP)
The revival of Chicago is currently in its sixteenth year on Broadway at the Ambassador. A production is also on tour. (AP Photo/The Publicity Office, Jeremy Daniel)
Castmembers partake in the 'Kinky Boots' Broadway Sneak Peek at Al Hirschfeld Theatre on February 28, 2013 in New York City. The show opens on April 4, 2013. (Photo by Michael Loccisano/Getty Images)
This theater image released by The Hartman Group shows Holland Taylor as former Texas Gov. Ann Richards during a performance of "Ann." Taylor, perhaps best known for playing the feisty grandmother on the CBS sitcom "Two and a Half Men," has written and stars in a one-woman show that debuts on Broadway this month. (AP Photo/The Hartman Group)
Breakfast At Tiffany's
This theater image released by The O+M Company shows Cory Michael Smith, left, and Emilia Clarke in a scene from "Breakfast at Tiffany's," performing at the Cort Theatre in New York. (AP Photo/The O+M Company, Nathan Johnson Photography)
This theater publicity image released by Boneau/Bryan-Brown shows the four actresses who share the title role in "Matilda The Musical," from left, Bailey Ryon, Milly Shapiro, Sophia Gennusa, and Oona Laurence on stage at the Shubert Theatre in New York. The show opens on April 11, 2013 at Shubert Theatre. (AP Photo/Boneau/Bryan-Brown, Joan Marcus)
I'll Eat You Last: A Chat With Sue Mengers
Bette Midler will star in John Logan's new play I'll Eat You Last: A Chat With Sue Mengers in the spring, marking the first time the Grammy, Tony and Golden Globe winner has been on Broadway in 30 years. The show opens April 24, 2013 at a Shubert theatre to be announced later. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision)
The first Broadway revival of Andrew Lloyd Webber's Evita, starring Ricky Martin, Michael Cerveris and Elena Roger is in its second year on Broadway. The production will close on January 26th, 2013. (AP Photo/Charles Sykes, File)
Jersey Boys,, based on the story of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons is in its seventh year at the August Wilson theater Broadway. The show has a national tour as well as productions in Las Vegas, London, Australia, South Africa, and Singapore. (Photo by Paul Hawthorne/Getty Images)
Laura Osnes and Santino Fontana appear at the curtain call for the Broadway premiere of "Rodgers + Hammerstein's Cinderella" on Sunday, March 3, 2013 in New York. (Photo by Charles Sykes/Invision/AP)
Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike
This publicity photo provided by O & M Co. shows David Hyde Pierce, left, and Sigourney Weaver in "Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike." All kinds of things are flipped around in the playwright, Christopher Durang's utterly refreshing farce "Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike," which has happily made the leap from off-Broadway to open Thursday, March 14, 2013, at the Golden Theatre. (AP Photo/O and M Co., Carol Rosegg)
The Lion King
The Lion King, based on the popular Disney movie, is in its sixteenth year on Broadway at the Minskoff Theater. Other production locations include a national tour, London, Australia, Ireland, Brazil, Spain, Germany, and Japan. (AP/Photo/Las Vegas News Bureau, Darrin Bush)
Tom Hanks will play a gutsy New York City newspaper columnist when he makes his debut on Broadway in the spring. Producers of Nora Ephron's play "Lucky Guy" announced that Hanks will play Mike McAlary in the stage biography. Hanks, a two-time Oscar winner, had been in negotiations for the role when Ephron died this summer. Previews begin March 1 at the Broadhurst Theatre and an opening night is set for April 1. (AP Photo/Starpix, Marion Curtis, file)
This March 5, 2013 photo shows Berry Gordy posing for a portrait in front of the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre in New York. For Berry Gordy, conquering Broadway is the next - and by his own admission, last - major milestone of a magical, musical career. The 83-year-old Motown Records founder is taking his story and that of his legendary label to the Great White Way. "Motown: The Musical," opens on April 14, 2013. (Photo by Charles Sykes/Invision/AP)
This undated publicity photo provided by American Repertory Theater shows Matthew James Thomas, left, as Pippin and Rachel Bay Jones as Catherine in a production of "Pippin," at the American Repertory Theater in Cambridge, Mass. The show will open at Broadway's Music Box Theatre on april 25, 2013. (AP Photo/American Repertory Theater, Michael J. Lutch)
Mamma Mia, based on the music of ABBA, is currently in its twelfth year on Broadway at the Winter Garden Theater. Other productions include London, China, and Moscow, with International, French, Japanese, and Korean tours. (Photo by Andrew H. Walker/Getty Images)
Mary Poppins, based on the popular Disney movie is currently in its seventh year on Broadway at the New Amsterdam Theater. The show is also on a national tour. The Broadway production will close on March 3rd. (Photo by Bryan Bedder/Getty Images)
Newsies, based on the popular Disney movie is in its second year on Broadway. (Photo by Mike Coppola/Getty Images)
Nice Work If You Can Get It
Nice Work If You Can Get It, with an Ira Gershwin score, is in its second year on Broadway at the Imperial Theater, starring Matthew Broderick and Kelli O'Hara. The production will launch a national tour in the fall of 2013. (AP Photo/Boneau/Bryan-Brown, Joan Marcus)
Once, based on the indie film, is in its second year on Broadway at the Bernard B Jacobs Theater. It won the 2012 Tony Award for Best Musical. (AP Photo/Boneau/Bryan-Brown, Joan Marcus)
Phantom Of The Opera
Andrew Lloyd Webber's The Phantom Of The Opera is currently celebrating its 25th year on Broadway at the Majestic Theater. It is the longest running show on Broadway Other production locations include London, Las Vegas, Asia Pacific, South Africa and Budapest. (AP Photo/Joel Ryan, file)
The Nance, starring Nathan Lane, opened at the Lyceum Theatre on April 15, 2013. (Photo by Cindy Ord/Getty Images)
Rock Of Ages
Rock Of Ages, a jukebox musical of 80's rock songs is currently in its fourth year on Broadway at the Helen Hayes Theater. The show is currently on tour. Other production locations include Las Vegas and London. (Photo by Paul Kolnik via Getty Images)
Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark
Spider-Man is currently in its third year on Broadway at the Foxwoods Theater. A national tour has been announced. (AP Photo/Mark Kennedy)
Wicked is in its tenth year on Broadway at the Gershwin Theater. The show is on a national tour. Other production locations include London and Holland. (AP Photo /Joan Marcus, File)
"The Trip to Bountiful"
This theater publicity image released by The Hartman Group shows Vanessa Williams, left, and Cuba Gooding Jr., during a performance of "The Trip to Bountiful" at the Stephen Sondheim Theatre in New York. (AP Photo/The Hartman Group, Joan Marcus)